Psst! Did you hear? T-Mobile's got an awesome deal on 4G smartphones for Father's Day weekend. The carrier's reduced the price of Android and Windows Phone devices that initially cost as much as $250 to nothing (with a two-year contract, of course). Each of the devices were released in the last year (so they're not relics) and feature access to T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 Mbps 4G network, which, during our tests, proved to be a network snappy enough to notch speedy 15 Mbps downloads.
You can see the full list of 11 smartphones here, but we've done some of the work for you by narrowing down the pickings to these five options. Just, you know, don't tell Dad--yet.
If Dad's into cutting-edge smartphones for the price of free, he'll go nuts for the HTC One S, an Android 4.0 device that mixes killer features with a slim design--all for $0.00 this holiday weekend. Let's count the specs packed into this .31 inch-thick, unibody, aluminum shell, shall we? There's an 8-MP camera with the ability to shoot high-quality stills even while capturing 1080p video, a 1.5-Ghz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM to tap through HTC Sense 4.0 with ease, and a Super AMOLED 4.3-inch with a 960 x 540-pixel resolution. That's less sharp than some competing phones with 720p screens, but the HTC One S is still among the brightest and most colorful displays we've seen.
When it launched back in October 2011, this 4.52-inch smartphone cost $229 and ran Samsung's helpful TouchWiz user interface over its Android Gingerbread mainframe. Today, you can get this 4.5-star and editor's choice-winner for nada--plus this phone just received an update to Android 4.0 on Monday, June 11. That means all the sweet treats of Ice Cream Sandwich--easier multitasking, the Google Chrome mobile browser, swipe-to-dismiss notifications, and re-sizable widgets--are yours for the devouring. And don't forget this phone's already-stacked. The 1850mAh battery lasted 7 hours on our battery tests. The 16GB on-board storage is supplemented with a 16GB microSD card slot, and the 8MP camera lacks fancy shooting tools like panorama mode but the sensor took excellent, evenly-exposed shots.
T-Mobile's not spreading the Father's Day love with just Android smartphones. Windows Phone devices with Mango, Microsoft's most recent mobile OS, are on tap, too. The Nokia Lumia 710 is on the budget-end of the Windows Phone lineup, but it sure doesn't look like it. The light-blue plastic exterior looks classy and well-built, and the 3.7-inch screen shines at a vibrant 456 lux. And Windows Phone's Live Tile interface is a breeze to use. Since this phone is free for the weekend, throw in a $10/month Zune Music Pass to keep your Y chromosome donor happy.
Since it boasts sturdier build quality (and a slightly heftier 6.1-ounce weight as a result), we're billing the HTC Amaze 4G as the Android phone for accident-prone Dads. The 4.3-inch screen isn't AMOLED but it packs a decent 960x540 pixel resolution--plus, it's protected with a Gorilla Glass coating, so frequent drops shouldn't be a problem. The Amaze 4G is a strong choice for Pops that perfer a little style too. Its attractive unibody design is a mixture of cool aluminum and luxe-looking soft touch plastic. And for truly choice fathers, this handset's available in black or white. Internals aren't stodgy either--not with a 1.5-GHz dual-core processor, 8MP camera, and an HTC Sense UI that will let him access apps from the lockscreen.
Think of the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G as the plucky sidekick to Galaxy S II. This handset packs a smaller screen (3.9 vs. 4.5 inches) and a more sparse pixel density of 800 x 480 dots, but like all underdogs, it accentuates the positives well. There's a 1.5-GHz Snapdragon CPU with 1GB of RAM that made Android Gingerbread a breeze to use, a 1750mAh battery that clocked in at 7 hours and 11 minutes during our tests, andsolid 4G speeds that climbed as high as 11.5 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up. Adding even more spiff to the device is a 5MP camera with 720p video capture and dual speakers with plenty of kick.